Many dentists have been led to believe that to grow a successful dental practice the magic prescription is more new patients. In reality, we find something completely different. We have seen practices with high new patient flow, and the profitability of the practice diminished. We have also seen practices with a recent decline in new patients that saw an improvement in profits. If you are trying to build the dental practice of your dreams, you should understand that new patients are not a statistic that tracks with profitability. In short, more new patients are not always the answer.
If you are trying to grow your practice, or are looking at transitioning sometime in the future, there is another area to focus on that doesn’t get much attention – Patient Retention. This is a statistic that does track with profitability. If practices were to focus on improving patient retention, this statistic is correlated with profitability. Another reason this is so critical for dentists looking to transition is practice valuation is based on profitability. Valuation is not based on production or collections, but the profits generated from the practice. How can you improve patient retention? Focus on providing a world class patient experience. In today’s world, it is important that we are taking excellent care of our patients. They have many options, and they can easily find out how focused we are on patient care. A simple Google search and a glance at dental practices reviews can tell prospective patients a lot about you. How well are we doing taking care of the patients we already have?
We have a process we teach that involves rating your patient experience in great detail. First impressions matter, and we defined 65 different points of contact in every patient encounter. Imagine what the difference could be if we focused on improving several of these touch points each month. If you would like to see how you rate, simply visit: www.ScheinGift.com for a complimentary copy of your Rate your Patient Experience tool.
When patients come in for preventive exams and cleanings, another key to a world class experience is to be fiercely committed to taking excellent care of them. Today’s patients have a variety of needs; many are at high risk for both decay and/or periodontal issues and have no sense of this. Drug-induced dry mouth is more than just an annoyance for many of our patients; it can be a real threat to their overall health. Providing risk assessments, and having a menu of preventative services in hygiene that patients are offered consistently is another way practices differentiate themselves and provide world class care. Another way to improve Patient Retention is to focus on patient convenience. How often are we saying ‘NO’ to our patients? No, we don’t see patients in the evenings, or on weekends. No, we don’t accept that insurance. No, we don’t accept payments. Every time we must say no to patients, this creates a barrier. We have to focus on making it easier for patients to do business with us. They will choose to tolerate this official policy or move along to another practice that has more convenient policies. This causes us to lose these patients, and retention suffers.
We have seen practices, with focus on these principles, grow dramatically in a short period of time. Several have sold their practices a few years down the road and sent thank you notes our way. When you focus on improving patient care, production improves at the same time. With careful systems and good management, profitability should also increase.
Wendy Briggs, RDH is a top producer within the field of clinical hygiene. She has coached countless other hygienists to do the same. As a consultant and speaker she has successfully worked with practices internationally as well as some of the largest organizations in the United States. She shares real-world solutions to common hygiene headaches.